The Buffalo Bills continue to search for the right combination along their offensive line.
During Thursday’s preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts at New Era Field, a new combination took the field – featuring Jon Feliciano at center. A free-agent addition from the Raiders, Feliciano has taken most of his snaps at guard during training camp, but the Bills elected to give him a look in the spot that’s expected to be occupied by Mitch Morse at some point.
Morse, however, remains out of the lineup with a concussion and there is no timetable on when he will be able to return. Russell Bodine had been getting the starting reps in Morse’s spot during practice, but the Bills elected instead to see how Feliciano looked in the role.
"I thought he did a good job,” coach Sean McDermott said. “That's a position usually you have to watch on tape, that interior line play, to know a little bit more.
"Jon's a guy that's well-respected by his teammates, comes to work every day. And I thought he did a good job getting himself ready to go just with coming back off the injury and not a whole lot of opportunity in practice at that position. Showed some mental toughness."
Feliciano only worked at center for a day during training camp, but got some reps there during the spring. He’s also been dealing with a shoulder injury suffered during the night practice at New Era Field a week ago.
The coaching staff told Feliciano on Wednesday that he would be at center against the Colts.
“It's just another day,” Feliciano said of switching positions. “We were all right. We would have liked to finish with points, so we've got a lot of work to do.”
Quarterback Josh Allen was impressed.
"Our chemistry is fantastic," Allen said. "We are good buddies off the field.
"The willingness from him to move from guard to center, to center to guard every other practice. For him to be able to communicate and do all of those things makes him a very valuable asset for us. He is a smart guy and glad to have him on the team."
The rest of the starting offensive line in front of Josh Allen included left tackle Dion Dawkins, left guard Quinton Spain, right guard Cody Ford and right tackle Ty Nsekhe. Ford, the second-round draft pick out of Oklahoma, moved to right tackle with the second offense during the Bills’ 24-16 win.
"He’s a big boy," Feliciano said of Ford. "He’s a good rookie. He does everything right; does everything we ask him. He’s had a great mindset."
2. The Bills held out a lengthy list of players against the Colts. Running back LeSean McCoy was in uniform, but did not see the field. He was joined on the sideline by linebacker Lorenzo Alexander in what amounted to veteran rest days. Frank Gore got the start at running back, while second-year veteran Corey Thompson was in Alexander’s spot on defense. Defensive end Jerry Hughes and cornerback Taron Johnson stretched with the team, but were not in uniform. They were both seen getting attention from trainers during practice earlier this week, although any possible injuries have not been announced by the team.
In addition to Morse, the injured players sitting out included safety Micah Hyde (neck), cornerback E.J. Gaines (groin) and tight ends Tyler Kroft (foot), Dawson Knox (hamstring) and Jason Croom (hamstring). Kurt Coleman started in Hyde’s place, while rookie seventh-round draft pick Tommy Sweeney started at tight end.
3. T.J. Yeldon didn’t do himself any favors. The Bills’ fourth-string running back lost a fumble deep in Indianapolis territory during the second quarter. Yeldon has been behind McCoy, Gore and rookie Devin Singletary in training camp, which places him firmly on the roster bubble.
Things got worse for Yeldon after he exited the game, too. Senorise Perry came in and made a nice, 15-yard reception late in the second quarter a few plays before leaping over the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown. Perry is a standout performer on special teams, which could give him quite an advantage over Yeldon if they are competing for one roster spot.
4. Safety Dean Marlowe made a nice interception in the second quarter. Marlowe stepped in front of Colts receiver Krishawn Hogan to pick off quarterback Phillip Walker.
“We had a nice third-down play call,” Marlowe said. “I read the quarterback's eyes, broke, and made a play.”
Marlowe returned the interception to the Colts’ 20-yard line, setting up Buffalo’s second touchdown of the night.
Marlowe is competing for a reserve spot at safety behind Hyde and Jordan Poyer.
“It's always a competition every day,” he said of the secondary. “All of us together, we respect each other's game. We work with each other to get everyone better each and every day. For the most part, we don't even look at it like that. We just look at each other as brothers and take it day by day.”
5. It was a shaky start to the preseason for kicker Stephen Hauschka. He missed a 34-yard field goal in the first quarter, doinking his attempt off the left upright. Hauschka also barely made the extra point after the Bills’ first touchdown. It’s been assumed that Hauschka’s spot on the 53-man roster is secure, but the team does have rookie Chase McLaughlin for some competition.
McLaughlin made a 38-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
Speaking of special teams, for those who are into such things, here’s how the punting battle between Corey Bojorquez and Cory Carter played out. Bojorquez punted three times for 120 yards, an average of 40 yards. Carter punted twice for 87 yards, an average of 43.5. Each punter’s long was 51 yards, and Carter placed one inside the Colts’ 20-yard line.
6. Drops were an issue for the offense in the first half. The biggest of those was by Zay Jones, on what should have been a nice touchdown pass from Josh Allen in the first quarter. Jones wasn’t alone, though, as Ray-Ray McCloud, Robert Foster and Sweeney all joined him in dropping catchable passes.
Speaking of Foster, he was in the game long after the top four receivers -- John Brown, Cole Beasley, Andre Roberts and Jones – had departed. Foster almost made a nice diving catch in the third quarter, but the 38-yard gain was overturned on a replay review.
The drops issue continued in the second half, too, when undrafted rookie David Sills V dropped a throw that was slightly behind him, but has to be caught.
7. Jones took a vicious hit after dropping the pass near the goal line and went back to the locker room to be evaluated for a head injury. The Bills announced he was cleared of a concussion and Jones rejoined his teammates on the sideline. Left tackle Conor McDermott also was evaluated for a head injury. He, too, was cleared and eventually returned to the field.
8. University at Buffalo products Tyree Jackson and Cam Lewis got into the game in the second half. Jackson’s best throw came after he scrambled out of trouble and uncorked a bomb to Foster that was initially ruled a completion before being overturned on a video review. Jackson finished 2-for-10 for 45 yards and ran for six yards on five carries.
Lewis, meanwhile, played on the kick-return and punt-coverage teams in addition to working at slot cornerback with the third-team defense. Lewis made three tackles on defense and one on special teams.
9. Sean McDermott is in midseason form … when it comes to icing the kicker. McDermott took a timeout with 3 seconds left in the first half before Colts kicker Cole Hedlund attempted a 42-yard field goal. Yes, he iced the kicker in a preseason game, which led to plenty of laughs on social media.
10. Colts quarterback Chad Kelly entered the game with 7:18 left in the third quarter. The St. Joe’s product completed his first pass to former Bills running back Jonathan Williams for a 6-yard gain. The highlight play for Kelly came in the fourth quarter, when he took a quarterback keeper 33 yards to the house. Kelly finished 13 for 19 for 121 yards and ran for 53 yards on four carries.
Story topics: Andre Roberts/ Chad Kelly/ Chase McLaughlin/ Cole Beasley/ Conor McDermott/ David Sills V/ Dawson Knox/ Dean Marlowe/ Devin Singletary/ Dion Dawkins/ E.J. Gaines/ Frank Gore/ Jason Croom/ Jerry Hughes/ Jon Feliciano/ Josh Allen/ LeSean McCoy/ Mitch Morse/ Quinton Spain/ Robert Foster/ Russell Bodine/ Senorise Perry/ Stephen Hauschka/ T.J. Yeldon/ Taron Johnson/ Ty Nsekhe/ Tyler Kroft/ Zay Jones